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Finding Greater Love
By Brenda K. Blakely

God has often surprised me with where He has revealed Himself and the truth from His word. One particular sultry, hot, Mississippi summerís eve at the Rock House Inner City Ministry became one of those out-of-the-normal-realm-of-my-life experiences I have learned to appreciate.

An old office building had received a facelift to accommodate the Rock House Ministry. New carpeting and paint had been added to cover up cracks and other structural problems, but nothing could hide the odor of the life that had been there before.

In the past, through obedience to God, I had only gone through the motions of serving people who came into Rock House. This night; however, would change me.

After my husband finished parking our car as near to the streetlight as we could get, we walked down Capital Street ready to do our night of service. As we stepped off the sidewalk and into the dark, dingy staircase that would lead us up to the ministry quarters, Mississippiís summer heat exaggerated a musky smell of debris and decaying food which was only a forecast of what was to come.

When I entered the upstairs ministry, all I could see were dirty people with faces scarred by physical abuse and all life on the streets had to offer. Their voices were lifted in praise and accompanied by musical instruments that celebrated the grace of God, but the odors emanating from bodies, which had not encountered soap and water for a lengthy period of time, overloaded my senses.

The gastronomical disturbance created by this assault on my senses was about to be revealed. My first question was, "Where is the bathroom?"

Upon entering the bathroom, plowing through the paper towels on the floor and doing whatever I could to avoid the wet spots, I prayed, "Lord you know loving comes hard for me but if you are going to put me here, you will have to teach me to love these people with your greater love."

He answered quickly with the gift of His portion. I came out of the bathroom ready to do whatever God had for me that night.

After several hours of serving the people God had brought to the service, I began to realize the evening was about to end and I could leave. I became particularly anxious to put the sight, smell and sound of the nightís experience behind me.

Dashing for the dingy stairs, which had been such an obstacle for me at my arrival, I was halted in my descent by a coarse, smelly young woman, hunkered on a step. Her body blocked my passage.

As I slowed down and was eventually stalled by her presence, she began to talk. Not wanting to be rude, I turned toward her to listen. While she rambled, I began to suspect she had blocked the stairs as a means to obtain a listener.

Her conversation went back to the time when she was fourteen years old. I listened to her eleven years of experiences that would have crushed the spirit of the faint-hearted and was drawn into the drama of her life.

As we talked, an older man with whom she lived wandered across the street. She spotted him coming and quickly explained, "He didn't come to the services this evening because he wasn't feeling well." She elaborated about her hunger pangs and anxiety to consume the sandwich she had received after the service; yet she continued to clutch it in her hand.

She continued to talk as he came closer. It seemed with the sharing of each experience the sag in her shoulders lessened. Once he was by her side, she quietly slipped the sandwich into the hands of the old man without any pretense or show. When she realized I had seen her pass the food to him, she commented, "I really wasn't hungry".

By this time, my husband had begun trying to descending the stairs. When he couldnít proceed any further, he just stood and listened. He had seen the sandwich transaction. He turned and slipped back upstairs.

Soon he descended the stairs again and discreetly tucked another sandwich into the young woman's hand. She glanced at it and began stuffing it into her mouth.

In my mind's eye I saw a flashback of the sandwich she had quietly slipped to the old man and was reminded of her comment, "I wasn't hungry."

On the stairs that night she shared her pain, lessons learned from the street, and gave me an unpretentious demonstration of her unselfish love for others. I listened and with Godís help was able to see beyond the coarse exterior. His light revealed the greater love in her heart and the contrast in mine.

Because of that nightís encounter, I am learning to follow in obedience and belief that Godís light will shine in the dark places. I am learning to appreciate the glimpses of life He gives me beyond the normal everyday realm of my life, that teach me to appreciate the blessing of my own life. Most of all I am learning He will empower me to do His work and shine His light in the dark places so I can see. If I am willing to learn He will teach me; I can even find His greater love within my heart and the heart of others.

All rights owned by Brenda K. Blakely/JRCM,INC
Brenda is a counselor/educator. She and her husband have been privileged to serve God as itinerate ministry planters. Barbara can be contacted via the letters page of this magazine, or at PO Box 1151, Raymond, MS, 39154.
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